Cate Le Bon - Reward LP
Label: Mexican Summer
It was on a mountainside in Cumbria that the first whispers of Cate Le Bon's fifth studio album poked their buds above the earth. "There's a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night," she says, recounting the year living solitarily in the Lake District which gave way to Reward. By day, ever the polymath, Le Bon painstakingly learnt to make solid wood tables, stools and chairs from scratch; by night she looked to a second-hand Meers — the first piano she had ever owned — for company, "windows closed to absolutely everyone," and accidentally poured her heart out. The result is an album every bit as stylistically varied, surrealistically-inclined and tactile as those in the enduring outsider's back catalogue, but one that is also intensely introspective and profound; her most personal to date. Over this extended period a cast of trusted and loved musicians joined Le Bon, Khoula and fellow co-producer Josiah Steinbrick — Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint) on drums and percussion; Stephen Black (aka Sweet Baboo) on bass and saxophone and longtime collaborators Huw Evans (aka H Hawkline) and Josh Klinghoffer on guitars — and were added to the album, "one by one, one on one." Be it on her more minimalist, acoustic-leaning 2009 debut album Me Oh My or critically acclaimed, liquid-riffed 2013 LP Mug Museum as well as 2016's Crab Day, Cate LeBon's solo work — and indeed also her production work, such as that carried out on recent Deerhunter album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? —has always resisted pigeonholing, walking the tightrope between krautrock aloofness and heartbreaking tenderness; deadpan served with a twinkle in the eye, a flick of the fringe and a lick of the Telecaster.